If you’re looking to buy an action camera then you’ll have noticed that there market is packet with models all promoting different features and video quality options. In a previous post I looked at ‘Are cheap action camera was worth it?‘ and the outcome was a resounding yes as long as you don’t mind easing back on some features.
Looking at the marker as a whole and every new camera seems to pack with headline features, from 4K, Wifi to motion sensors and GPS, and with all these options it can be difficult to establish exactly what you really need.
In the ‘Are cheap action camera was worth it?‘ feature I mentioned five must have features that any new camera should really have and here I take a bit more of an in-depth look.
Must have features for any action camera
- Is it waterproof or come with a waterproof housing?
- Does it feature Wifi?
- Is the housing lens flat?
- Does it shoot 1080p video at 60fps?
- Does it come with mounts?
These five simple questions will highlight the basics of what you need from an action camera, below I’ll take a closer look at why.
Up until the latest Hero5 Black the waterproof housing was a major part of the GoPro design. From the usability angle it’s great to see it gone, but for the rest of the market waterproof housings are likely to be around for a while and for good reason.
When your looking at purchasing an action camera check to see if the camera is waterproof, and how deep it will stay protected within the housing.
If you do get to see the camera before you buy just make sure that the housing closes properly. The H8R which is a example of a cheap action camera features a decent waterproof housing, yet the quality isn’t premium so a quick check of the seal should always be done on closing.
Looking at premium action cameras such as the Nikon KeyMission 360 and Wasp 4K don’t require a housing and are waterproof out of the box, however cameras such as the Yi 4K and Veho K2Pro 4K both require you to buy an aftermarket housing.
There’s no excuse for a camera these days not to have Wifi and a compatible app. Some action cameras for whatever reason will have a perfectly good camera and features but fail to support the hardware with Wifi. Although Wifi might seem a gimmick it is now an integral part of using an action camera, and without it the camera can become frustrating to use. The GoPro Hero which was launched as the base model a couple of years ago was a prime example, no Wifi no use and now discontinued. If you see a camera that looks like a good deal but doesn’t have WiFi leave it.
Is the lens flat?
Really this is personal preference but having been using action cameras for a few years I’d say its one of the most fundamental aspects of design. Originally GoPro had a robust bolted style of lens on the front of their waterproof housing ,and sure enough it did the job, but out on the trial it would inevitably get caked in mud and require a bit of effort to clean, a flat lens just takes a quick wipe with your finger.
The Olfi one.five which skims the outskirts of cheap action cameras has an almost flat lens and although it can be wiped clean quickly it’s not to the same level of ease as the original, which did have a completely flat lens. The Wasp 4K is another great camera and definitely not cheap but again has the bolt style of lens which absolutely loves to gather mud. As I say it’s not a major one.
Does it shoot 1080p video at 60fps?
The bare minimum resolution you need to shoot with an action camera is 1080p, any lower and it’s probably a camera that has been sat in a warehouse for a few years gathering dust and that’s why it’s being sold cheap. That also probably means the battery hasn’t been charged or used for years and won’t hold any charge so it’s an instant leave it on the shelf.
1080p at 30fps is ok and actually there some good cheap cameras out there such as the ISAW Air, but that 30fps will become limiting as soon as action is involved. Really 1080p @30fps with the option to push the frame rate to 60fps for when you’re thundering down a hill is perfect.
Does it come with mounts?
Finally mounts, as well as the camera you’re going to need to be able to mount it. One sign of a decent cheap action camera is that it comes with a huge selection of mounts, such as the ISAW range. If not check that the mount on the base is compatible with an existing camera eco system such as GoPro which has the distinctive three prongs mount.
If it doesn’t feature the GoPro style mount then some will just feature a traditional style 1/4 -inch thread on the base. If there is no mount then again it’s probably not worth the hassle.
If you have any other suggestion of your own then please let me know.
Our top five cheap action cameras
- Yi Action Camera – From GearBest
- SJCAM SJ4000- From GearBest
- H8R- From GearBest
- ISAW Wing – From Currys
- FireFly 6S- From GearBest